Loving Things

He loves thee too little who loves anything together with thee, which he loves not for thy sake.
– St. Augustine, Confessions

We accept the first phrase of Augustine’s idea here pretty readily, don’t we? “He loves thee too little who loves anything together with thee.” Loving God and something? In a vacuum the concept feels offensive. Sounds like a sin. But nothing happens in a vacuum. Things happen between your heart and God’s.

I love things. I am not ashamed to say it. Fly fishing things, for example. I love fly rods, rocks, breezes, and the sounds of water. Adventures, stories, sunsets, laughter. I love using observation and patience to outsmart a wise brown trout. I love the feeling of bringing a large fish to hand, and then I love pretending it’s not a big deal around my friends.

I take the second part of Augustine’s assertion along with the first: “which he loves not for thy sake.” It carries the beautiful implication that it is not only okay to love “somethings” and “someones,” but that is it actually possible to love them for God’s sake. Or to say it more naturally, to love God in loving them.

Consider a far greater love of mine: Laurie. God gave her to me so I would love her. My loving her does not take from my loving God, but increases it. It’s absurd to separate the two. In loving Laurie, I love God.

In the same way, our creator gave us a world full of things to love just as a lover gives a jewel to his beloved. The purpose of the gift is stoke the beloved’s heart toward her lover. Should she not love the jewel? Should she not enjoy putting it on and reveling in its brilliance? Isn’t it amazing that God richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment?

I consider holy any love that draws my heart to the heart of God my Lover.

Conversely, I consider contemptible any love in which I can’t find the greater love, or which would diminish my heart’s need for it.

March 5, 2013